If Ascension’s Council spent as much time seeking answers to parish drainage deficiencies as it does stumbling around, groping for excuses to justify the indefensible delay, something of value could have been accomplished over the 31 months since the last Great Flood. A Floodplain Management Plan, updated legislation regulating fill material in new subdivision which are subject to nugatory Drainage Impact studies, excuses for inaction have been exposed.
On May 11, 2017 CSRS Engineers’ Michael Songy appeared before the Council’s Strategic Planning Committee to discuss upgrades to Ascension’s Unified Land Development Code. He summarized:
“I think your ordinance is good. There are other parishes that wish they had your ordinances. Is it perfect? No. Is the implementation perfect? No.”
Songy explained that his company assisted in adopting policies controlling the amount of fill allowed in any given subdivision and the measures required to mitigate adverse affect on surrounding properties. That was back in 2006.
“All that we can do is look at that adjacent property…If someone else’s property is draining onto the property being developed, and there’s fill requirements, we acknowledge that and we force them to dig swales to redirect that water so that it has an outfall.
It is the obligation of the developer to accommodate that water if it is being received from an adjacent property. Has that been done in the past? I don’t know; I cannot attest to that.”
Ascension’s Engineering Review Agent is Shawn Sherrow, who works for Songy. Sherrow is supposed to review all drainage plans submitted with every subdivision development. His boss would not commit that remedial measures are being maintained by any development. He had “no idea” whether detention ponds, another mitigation procedure, are being kept in working order either.
Songy opined that developers seek elevated acreage requiring less fill even though, in common practice, fill material is taken from on-site detention ponds. Over time those properties with higher elevation requiring less fill “get plucked up” according to Songy.
“The theory is simple. When you finish a development…that you still need to drain into the same place, but you don’t need to drain at any higher rate than that existing peak runoff. The only way that you can do that is to store water. That’s the only way you can do it. A piece of land that used to store water, because we’re flat here in south Louisiana, is now being forced to store it in a pond.”
Songy conceded that Ascension Parish does not monitor existing detention ponds to ensure proper maintenance and functionality.
“The lands that are now being acquired to develop have a higher probability of having a greater amount of fill. I’ll just leave it at that. That’s what’s left. How high are we gonna let them fill? That certainly can, and I think should, be looked at.”
That’s what he said on May 11, 2017. The fact that 21 months, and 13 days have elapsed without fill being “looked at” is an abject disgrace for which the current parish council bears the lion’s share of blame. President Kenny Matassa’s administration has done nothing to expedite the process either.